Alcove says ‘benvenuto’ to all things Italian |

Alcove says ‘benvenuto’ to all things Italian

Tucked away in a corner of Grass Valley is un po’ — a little bit — of Italy.

Enter the doors of the Gold Miners Inn-Holiday Inn Express downtown, turn right and benvenuto! — welcome — you’ll find the Italian Cultural Center Alcove.

Here you can learn about tours to Italy, how to become an Italian citizen, borrow books, connect to Italian lessons and get details about September’s Nevada County Italian Festival.

Local families of Italian descent number in the thousands, organizers said. At The Alcove, they and others can get tools to trace their heritage or share stories. Santinelli, Barbieri, Pello, Morandi, Borgnis-Giovanola, Tassone and Pardini are among the families visitors can read about at The Alcove.

They came from Piemonte, Tuscany, Premelo, Torini, Bergamo and other provinces to mine gold, farm and set up shop in Nevada County.

The Alcove’s mission is to help their descendants and others remember where they came from and why — so that the best of Italian culture does not become lost in America’s “vast minestrone.”

Stefano Woods oversees the space, provided to the Nevada County Italian Cultural Foundation inexpensively by hotel co-owner Nick Hayhurst, whose mother was part Sicilian.

Woods lived for 40 years in Europe, mostly in Italy, and continues to be “an Italian wanna-be,” he said.

“We offer Italian films with English subtitles; I give seminars on Italian culture, politics and art,” Woods added.

All ingredients of America’s soup can learn from Italy’s lifestyle — and Woods wants to encourage folks of all backgrounds to “engage in a deeper understanding and delight in one another,” he wrote.

Around The Alcove, images of a placid Madonna mix with photos from Venice’s Piazza San Marco and commercial art posters by vintner Asti Cinzano. Colorful pottery complements information about lawn bowling and Grass Valley’s sister city, Limana.

A small library offers histories of Rome, travel guides and translations of Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” Italo Calvino’s “Invisible Cities,” Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice” and other titles.

The foundation’s goal: “A 24/7 facility where things can go on being Italian and help Italian descendants rediscover the essence of what it is to be Italian,” Woods said.

“If someone does not know his heritage, he is rootless,” he said. “By knowing your past, you understand why there are certain reactions that come out from within you.”

Woods keeps flexible hours at The Alcove but is available by appointment; call 530-263-1604. Browse anytime at Gold Miners Inn-Holiday Inn Express, 121 Bank St., fronting Highway 20/49 in Grass Valley.

Everyone can feel Italian on Sept. 14-15, when the foundation offers food, music, wine tasting, crafts and children’s activities during the Italian Festival at Western Gateway Park in Penn Valley.

Entertainment features the Dean-o-Holics’ Rat Pack covers, the Don Giovannis’ Italian standards, young singer Michael Barimo, interactive Circus Imagination and food demonstrations by Tess’ Kitchen Store.

Tickets are on sale at Tess’, the Book Seller, Bear River Pasta Co. and Grande Wood Designs in Grass Valley. Visit for more information.

Grass Valley freelance writer Trina Kleist can be reached at or 530-575-6132.

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